Video: Arts and Letters Major Researches Perceptions of Race at National Library of France

Author: Todd Boruff

During the summer of 2014, Notre Dame French and history major Curran Cross traveled to Paris to conduct research at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. His project examined the differing views of Arab and African immigrants in modern France. “My hypothesis is that the French have had centuries of experience racially mixing with people of African ancestry and this is why they view black and white race as a continuum,” said Cross, “whereas they haven’t had this kind of contact with Arabs, and so it’s viewed more starkly.”

Cross’s research focused on perceptions of race in 19th-century France. In addition to studying political documents, pamphlets, and brochures, Cross analyzed plays and dramas written by French people. “You can discover a lot about a people by their pop culture,” he said.

Cross received financial support from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies through the R. Stephen and Ruth Barrett Summer Research Grant for Best Undergraduate Research Proposal. “I could not have come here without it,” said Cross. “When you open these documents and see, this was written with a quill 300 years ago, it brings history home. It makes it a lot more immediate, which I am so grateful for.”

You can also watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published by Todd Boruff at on October 22, 2014.